A Little Middle East History Lesson

Bill Neinast

neins1@aol.com

Fingers are pointing and wagging in both directions in Palestine.  Some are shaking their fists at Hamas and blaming those terrorists for starting the latest round of violence in the area.  Others are shaking their heads and screaming that the heartless Israelis are responsible for all the destruction and carnage.


Neither group seems to be bothered with facts.  Those facts are that the area in question has been wracked with internecine violence for a century or more.


In the early part of the last century, the area in which rockets and missiles are now flying in both directions was a British Protectorate.   The British rule was created by the League of Nations under the Mandate for Palestine of July 24, 1922.  Palestine, that had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the 16th Century, was part of the territory covered by the Mandate.


Palestine was to include a national home for the Jewish people, but British rule was to last “until such time as they (Jewish and Palestinian states) are able to stand alone.” 


The reference to a Jewish home was based on a promise made by Britain’s Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in the so-called Balfour Declaration in 1917.  The Declaration called for a Jewish home, but also provided, "that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”


The Jews in Palestine began to chafe under the British rule almost from the beginning.  In the 1930s, an organization called the Haganah began acts of terrorism against the British occupying forces.  This activity subsided during WWII, but began again after the defeat of Germany and continued until the formal creation of Israel in 1948.


This abbreviated history does not tell the whole story.   Israel was actually created under a September 3, 1947, UN “Plan” of partition to create "Independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem administered by the United Nations.”


That is when the real conflict began. Arabs began streaming out of the new state of Israel and Egypt, and other surrounding nations began military actions to destroy this upstart.


As a surprise to many, the fledgling nation not only repulsed every attack, it expanded its original territory.  As the leaders of the emerging nation recognized, the original lines of the partition left Israel dominated by the Golan Heights in enemy hands.

As any military history buff knows, the high ground dominates.  Many definitive battles are fought to hold or take the high ground. The battles at Little Round Top at Gettysburg and at Heartbreak Ridge in North Korea are two of the better known examples from recent history.


Because of the importance of the high ground,  Israel enlarged its originally assigned territory by annexing the Golan Heights at the first opportunity afforded by its enemy attacking once again.


Since that day, there has not been a day of peace in the area.  Bullets, bombs, or rockets may not be flying every day, but the tension is always there.  The Israeli military has to be at the ready every hour.


Iran, the new Islam Caliphate of Syria and Iraq, other countries, and various militant organizations like Hamas have vowed the complete destruction of Israel and Jewish Israelites. 


Hamas’ main organization is in Gaza, an enclave surrounded by Israel.  Because of the violence against Israel and Israelites immigrating from Gaza, Israel occupied the small but densely populated area for a while.  When things were considered under control, Israel withdrew to see an immediate resumption of the violence. 


To choke off the flow of arms into Gaza and the infiltration of agents, Israel blockaded Gaza by land and sea except for humanitarian aid and fishing boats that were limited to a three mile area.


Hamas quickly thwarted the blockade with a series of sophisticated tunnels that allowed both the importation of sophisticated rockets and the infiltration of kidnapping terrorists into Israel.


Hamas hid the rockets and ammunition in schools, hospitals, and other civilian enclaves.  They then began firing thousands of rockets or missiles from those civilian hideouts into Israel.  


Fortunately, Israel has a sophisticated defense system.  It can detect a rocket or missile immediately upon launch.  It can also determine the probable target of the  weapon.  If it is targeted on an uninhabited area, it is ignored.  If, however, an occupied area is in its sights, Israel’s expensive but state of the art “Iron Dome” will destroy the bomb in flight.


That system will also determine the launch site and bring it under destructive fire, even if it is surrounded by “innocent” men, women, and children.


So here’s the perspective.


The finger wagging at Israel is based on the news coverage of the body count of civilians and the property destruction in Gaza.  No thought is given to who is furnishing the destructive weapons to Hamas, an organization with no known source of income like taxes, and why those weapons are being fired from civilian housing.


One of the more naive thoughts today is that wars can be and should be fought without civilian casualties.  Such wars, if they ever existed, are long gone.  Consider the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Dresden, Germany, and in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, under British and American bombs.  How many soldiers would have died if those bombs were not dropped?


How many civilians will have to die before Muslim terrorists in Gaza and elsewhere realize they may be facing a Hiroshima/Nagasaki moment? 

enough


 
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